There are many benefits for the mother who decides to breastfeed her child, including:
- Convenience: Milk always available, appropriate temperature, no preparation or cleanup activities, mothers can soothe and comfort infants immediately.
- Cost: A two- to three-fold cost savings is often realized when breastfeeding (comparing additional maternal diet expense and formula costs). (Montgomery, 1997; Hoey, 1997; Tuttle, 1996) Also, infant and maternal illnesses and lost productivity are lower. (Riordan, 1997)
- Hormonal alterations: Increased prolactin (mothering hormone) promotes feelings of closeness, mothering behavior. (Bridges, 1994) Increased oxytocin (Nature's Tranquilizer, Cuddle Chemical) (Ackerman, 1994) Helps mothers cope with stress of caring for a newborn.
- Maternal stress: Hormones elevated during lactation are associated with decreased maternal physical and emotional stress. (Altemus, 1995) Delay in return of menstrual cycle. (Lewis, 1991)
- Child spacing: The spacing of children in a family is extended when mothers breastfeed. Mothers who breastfeed experience longer intervals between births. (Perez, 1992; Labbok, 1991, Lunn, 1992)
- Weight loss: Breastfeeding mothers lose weight more rapidly between 3 to 6 months postpartum (Dewey, 1993)
- Cancer: Breastfeeding mothers experience a reduced incidence of breast cancer, especially among pre-menopausal women who breastfeed 3 to 6 months. (Protection increases as cumulative months of breastfeeding accrue.) (Newcomb, 1994; Enger, 1997; Katsouyanni, 1996; Yoo, 1992; Miozzi, 1995) Ovarian and endometrial cancer (Rosenblatt, 1995; Gwinn, 1990)
- Osteoporosis: Bone density may transiently decrease during lactation and bones recover to pre-lactation levels even with extended lactation and subsequent pregnancies. (Sowers, 1995; Kioezm 1996).
- Diabetes: Breastfeeding six weeks or more was associated with a two-fold reduction of subsequent diabetes after gestational diabetes (three-year follow-up). (Kjos, 1993)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against mothers developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Infections: Maternal urinary tract infectionsare decreased during lactation (Pisacane, 1992; Coppa, 1990)
- Child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence are reduced in breastfeeding families. (Acheson, 1995) Mothers report special closeness to breastfed infants. Research demonstrates changes in maternal physiology, endocrine secretions, and behaviors related to breastfeeding. (Altemus, 1995; Uvnas-Boverg, 1996, Nissen, 1996) Successful breastfeeding positively influences mothers' perceptions of confidence in caring for their babies.
- Breastfeeding is a Natural Resource. Formula feeding unnecessarily uses national resources: More than $2 billion is spent annually in the United States for artificial feeding. Universal breastfeeding for 3 months could reduce national health-care costs by $2 billion to $4 billion per year, using conservative estimates. (Labbock, 1994)
- Breastfeeding can help decrease waste because 3,000 bottle-fed babies create 70,000 tons of solid waste from cans and packaging. Industry spends more than $700 million per year for advertising. Tons of paper, glass and metal are used for advertising and packaging. (Radford, 1992)
Breastfeeding Educator Program Resource Notebook, Debi L. Bocar, RN, MS, Med, IBCLC, 1998